Built To Last
The history and practice of Timber Fame Construction Buildings in the Mohawk Valley
The Schoharie River Center will be hosting a series of lectures, tours, and workshops focused on traditional timber frame building techniques and technology, as found in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys of New York State. The series will present the history of the built form and its evolution and support to the present day.
Through workshops, lectures, and tours, the series will introduce and teach architectural methods and design concepts evident in the historical and modern timber frame construction techniques and building practices currently employed throughout the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys. Participants will be able to attend several presentations by architectural scholars, participate in one of several tours highlighting historical and modern timber frame buildings located in Montgomery, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, and participate in hands-on workshop instruction using of both traditional and modern timber frame tools and techniques under the tutelage of master timber-framers.
Timber Frame building is a practical and time-tested method of building construction. By mastering the skills of timber frame construction, one can build almost any type of structure out of wood. Utilizing locally resourced materials, timber frame construction enables a small group of individuals to inexpensively build homes, community buildings and other structures, that can be easily expanded and adapted to new or future uses.
Historically, this technique is found throughout the region’s built environment – in its homes, places of worship, and in its barns and agricultural outbuildings. The simplicity and durability of Timber Frame Constructed buildings is self-evident when one travels through the Mohawk Valley and is able to observe the sheer number and range of these structures, many over 200 years old that are still in use as originally intended. The study of timber frame buildings in upstate New York is also a study of the early European and colonial history of the region as various regions of the Mohawk River basin were settled by various European groups and communities. Dutch, Palatine German, Scottish, English, and the French, brought their own local and regional timber frame building practices with them that can still be seen in our local historic structures. These structures are well-documented by architectural historians such as Fred Kniffen (The New World Dutch Barn), and Cynthia Falk (Barns in New York) and by architectural organizations such as the Society for the Preservation of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture.
Contemporary timber-frame builders continue this architectural form in constructing community meeting spaces, homes, barns, performance venues, and retreat centers. Architectural historians, engineers, and master carpenters have continued to support this building form up into the present-day.
The programs will run from May – September 2022 and will consist of a series of lectures, two tours, and several hands-on workshops on timber framing techniques at the Schoharie River Center. Lectures and tours for the general public will focus on the history, tools, techniques, individual builders, skills and practice of timber frame building across history and cross culturally around the world. The series will provide participants with knowledge and insight into the historical and cultural context of timber frame building, the tools and technologies (both traditional and modern) employed in construction, and the integration of timber frame buildings with modern architecture, its design, and construction.
Built to Last: Timber Framing Series
Saturday May 7th, 2:00pm: Lecture
Built to Last: The History and Practice of Timber Frame Construction Buildings in the Mohawk Valley
Dendrochronology as a Tool for Understanding Our Built Culture
Presenter: Walter Richard Wheeler
Description: Dedrochronological sampling—a process in which cores of structural elements are taken and dated by correlating them to known patterns of tree growth—is a powerful tool that can be used to help understand the evolution of construction techniques, as well as providing a scientifically-based approach to the dating of particular buildings. This talk will present the results of a group of sampling projects undertaken in the region during the past 16 years, which have served to affirm traditional dates of some of the state’s most famous buildings—and have overturned conventional interpretations for others.
Walter Richard Wheeler is Senior Architectural Historian at Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc., and is President of Hudson-Mohawk Vernacular Architecture (www.hmvarch.org). He has written extensively on the subject of vernacular architecture in New York State.
Saturday June 18th, 2:00pm: Lecture
An Introduction to Dutch Barns
Presenter: Kieth Cramer
Description: Kieth Cramer received his Masters in Architecture from RPI and has spent his career working on architectural projects as well as historic preservation in the capital region. He will be presenting a slideshow of dutch barns, some of which can be found here in the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys. These images will be accompanied by a discussion of the design, function, and history of this style of building.
Sunday June 26th: Tentative Dutch Barn Tour
Saturday July 9th, 2:00pm: Lecture
Presenters: Sam Bruckman and Peter Ossi
Description: Founders of local timber framing company, Root Town Timbers, Peter Ossi and Sam Bruckman will discuss why the centuries old practice of timber frame construction is still relevant in modern times. Peter and Sam will explain key advantages of timber frame construction over conventional modern framing methods as well as the role that advanced timber construction is playing in cutting edge modern sustainable architecture.
Saturday July 16th, 2:00pm: Tour to The Root Community
Location: The Root Community
Guides: Sam Bruckman and Peter Ossi
Description: Timber frame builders, Peter Ossi and Sam Bruckman will lead a tour of The Root Community which is home to their timber frame workshop as well as wildly inventive structures such as a library built to look like a grain silo, a concert stage isolated deep in the woods, and houses supported entirely by trees. Peter and Sam will discuss the intersection of creativity, nature, and community building that embodies The Root Community and drives them to the practice of timber frame construction.
Thursdays June 2nd -August 25th
Timber Frame Workshop Hours (Thursdays 5pm-8pm)
Environmental educator and timber frame builder, Sam Bruckman, will be working every week to carve the timbers for an addition to The Schoharie River Center’s cultural hall. All are welcome to join. People new to timber framing are invited to come and learn the basics of the process while experienced timber framers are encouraged to come lend a hand and practice their timber framing skills. Please call Sam st (916)216-5300 if you intended to come by or if you have any questions.
Monday August 29th - Friday Sept 2nd
Week Long Timber Frame Workshop
The Schoharie River Center is looking to assemble a team of dedicated timber frame builders who want to spend a week honing their skills in order to help us complete the timbers for an addition to the Center’s Cultural Hall. This weeklong workshop is open to experienced timber framers and people new to the craft and will culminate in a frame raising to take place Saturday September 3.
Saturday September 3rd, 2:00pm: Frame Raising Party
When raising a timber frame, many hands make for easy work. Join us as we assemble the posts and beams that Schoharie River Center staff and volunteers spent the summer meticulously carving. The Frame raising will be followed by a campfire and barbecue to celebrate a summer of good work.